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This is unheard of: for the 2022 Football World Cup, which begins in Qatar on Sunday November 20, no foreign technician is in charge of an African selection. The Tunisia is headed by the Tunisian Jalel Kadri, the Morocco by the Moroccan Walid Regragui, the Cameroon by the Cameroonian Rigobert Song, the Ghana by the Ghanaian Otto Addo and the Senegal by the Senegalese Aliou Cissé. We have to go back to the 1978 edition in Argentina to find traces of such a situation; but at that time, Africa had only one representative: Tunisia, then trained by Abdelmajid Chetali.
Even if these five coaches are of the nationality of the team they supervise, their identities and their backgrounds recall the long history that links Africa to Europe. Walid Regragui was born in France, Otto Addo in Germany, and several of them are dual nationals. Apart from Jalel Kadri, all of them have had a career in Europe before obtaining their coaching diploma there and have worn the colors of their national team. And even if some have worn the jersey of big teams like Liverpool (Song) or Paris-Saint-Germain (Cissé), none have trained a European professional team.
Otto Addo was indeed an assistant at Borussia Dortmund (German club in which he was a player), but it was his country of origin that gave him the opportunity to lead a large formation for the first time by appointing him in charge of the Black Stars in March. Before knowing such a promotion, Rigobert Song and Aliou Cissé had taken care of the Olympic selections. As for Walid Regragui, he coached FUS Rabat, Al-Duhail SC (in Qatar) and Wydad Casablanca before replacing Vahid Halilhodzic on the Atlas Lions bench in August.
“The debate on nationality is demagogic”
Some observers wonder: can we consider these five African coaches as “locals”, even though most of them were trained in Europe? Much the same debate has already arisen about binational players, who now make up the vast majority of certain selections. Coaches today are no longer exempt.
At the 1998 World Cup, the five African teams were led by French, Polish or Serbian coaches
“It’s in tune with the times to say that Cissé or Regragui, who are also doing an excellent job, are locals. This debate on nationality is demagogic. I spent more time in Africa than them and, ultimately, that’s not the problem. They have talent, qualities, undeniable skills, that’s what counts.”argues the French Claude Le Roy, who led six African selections and won the African Cup of Nations (CAN) in 1988 with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. “I don’t spit in the soup. But Europe never gave me my chance, I went looking for ithad already argued Aliou Cissé in an interview with World Africa. I broke down doors to get in. I am grateful to France, but everything I acquired was by the sweat of my brow. »
” These examples show how difficult it is for an African or even binational coach to practice in Europe”assures the Congolese (ground floor) Florent Ibenge, also a graduate in France and who was the coach of the Leopards from 2014 to 2019. “For a long time, there was a majority of foreigners at the head of the selections because they had the reputation of being more experienced”underlines the Frenchman Hubert Velud, coach of the Burkina Faso and who previously framed the Togo or even the Sudan. How to contradict it? During the 1998 World Cup, theSouth AfricaCameroon, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia were all led by coaches of French, Polish or Serbian nationality.
So why are African coaches so little in demand? L’Algerian Djamel Belmadi and Aliou Cissé, whose selections have won the last two editions of the CAN, shouldn’t they be poached by a team in Europe? ” Of course yes, they have all the codes. But Europeans have privileged Europeans. It’s not discriminatory, it’s just a form of protectionism.”assures Amir Abou, former coach of the Comoros (and himself binational). “However, this situation benefits the African teams, who continue to benefit from the skills of these technicians trained in Europe”adds Hubert Velud.
Fundamental trend or fad?
These African or binational breeders have the opportunity to do their “evidence” on the continent and to obtain ” results “, also believes Florent Ibenge. Even if, as Aliou Cissé had acknowledged to the World Africa, “After the 2018 World Cup, I was offered to train good teams in Europe, not big teams”. He has just extended at the head of the Lions of Teranga until 2024.
The phenomenon also has an economic dimension, the salary of a “local” being often lower than that of an expatriate.
Anyway, since CAN 2019, “more and more African federations are calling on Africans”, observes Hubert Velud. Of the 54 FIFA-affiliated federations on the continent, 32 are trained by an African or binational technician, according to a count of the World Africa. This underlying trend – or this fashion effect – is a way of meeting the expectations of supporters, who are increasingly eager to see nationals take up the position. The phenomenon also has an economic dimension, since the salary of a “local” – often paid for by the authorities – will almost always be lower than that of an expatriate.
“The bet will really be won when coaches trained in Africa come to work in Europe”, advances Claude Le Roy, who has long been nicknamed “the white wizard”. Or when “more Africans will lead to a selection of the continent other than that of their country”, says Florent Ibenge. This is precisely the case of Amir Abdou. After eight years at the head of the Comoros, the Marseillais – who had managed to qualify the archipelago for its first CAN at the start of the year – was appointed coach of the Mauritania in March.
The course in Qatar of the five globalists will obviously be followed closely. If the result is positive, the number of “locals” will no doubt increase in the months following the competition. “Otherwise, it is possible that we will see foreign coaches returningpredicts Florent Ibenge. Because some federations will consider that they will be better able to obtain results. »